Helping Students Overcome the Fear of Failing
You surely have seen students who never actively participate in class discussions. They never share their opinions or raise a hand. If you ask them a question, they gaze back at you wide-eyed. When it comes to group work, these students let others brainstorm. Fear of making mistakes is a major issue for students, but educators hardly talk about this. However, we cannot overlook its impact on learning in the classroom. A student who is scared of making mistakes remains deprived of valuable learning experiences. This is because, for a frightened person, fear consumes a significant portion of brain bandwidth. As a result, the person cannot easily think about anything else. Fear, anxiety, and panic cause serious interference with attention, concentration, and memory.
Moreover, being frightened throughout the day is exhausting, and it obliterates students’ energy. It’s impossible for a worn-out student to stay in his or her zone of proximal development.
Fortunately, you and your students can tackle this apparently uncontrollable issue. Try the following strategies:
Help Your Students Identify the Feelings of Anxiety
Lots of students recognize their fear and anxiety only when these emotions become overwhelming. You need to teach your students to carefully observe what is going on in their minds and how their bodies feel when they feel that fear has started to creep up. Focus on teaching them effective strategies such as relaxation techniques, taking a short walk, stretching, or breathing techniques.
Establish a Nurturing Environment
teachers need to know their students. You need to know their stories and the things that make them fearful by investing time and emotion. Use self-compassion (don’t be afraid of making purposeful mistakes if that helps) and ask them to imitate. Explicitly teach them to confront mistakes directly, what does it feel, look, and sound like to work in a group, helping another student find out a mistake. You may want to use the following questions in your regular class discussions:
- What was the most difficult thing for you to work out today?
- What process did you use to conquer the feeling of fear of making a mistake?
- What did you learn by making a mistake today?
Consider Mistakes As Opportunities
When your students perform a task or activity, you should emphasize the process, not the result. This means you should prioritize their effort instead of their ability. First, help the students understand that mistakes give us opportunities to identify the things that went wrong and then learn together. How can you accomplish this in the classroom? You may take a math problem and ask students to solve it. Ask students who failed to solve the problem to describe their processes in front of the class. Finally, ask the class to work together to identify the errors in those students’ processes. Tell them that mistakes do happen and they’re an inherent part of learning.
Regardless of the particular subject you teach, these life skills are among the most vital things you can teach your students in the classroom.